Mamelodi Sundowns 1-1 Wydad Casablanca: The Brazilians and Wydad share the spoils in Tshwane
Masandawana were forced to share the spoils on Saturday night as they were held by the defending champions in Tshwane

Mamelodi Sundowns would be disappointed as they were forced to share the spoils with Wydad Casablanca on Saturday evening.

Sundowns looked to get their Caf Champions League group stage campaign off to the best possible start as they took on the defending champions at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.

The clash in Atteridgeville promised much excitement as all talk had been about Sundowns looking to exact revenge on the away side.

Wydad, who went on to win the 2017 edition of the tournament, were responsible for knocking Sundowns out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals and that would certainly have been at the back of the mind of coach Pitso Mosimane.

However, going into the clash Sundowns, who were recently crowned Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions were dealt a blow as talisman Percy Tau was suspended for the encounter, but Mosimane would not be too worried as Khama Billiat in his final home game for the club would be entrusted with leading the line.

As expected, the Zimbabwean did not have to wait too long to be in the thick of things as he was directly involved in Sundowns’ opener as they enjoyed a lively start.

After Billiat’s initial effort was superbly saved by the Wydad keeper as he broke free on goal, Sibusiso Vilakazi was quick to react and watched his cross dragged into the net by Wydad defender Badr Gaddarine, much to the delight of the Sundowns fans that braved the cold.

At the other end, the Moroccans were showing why Sundowns could not afford to give away free kicks around the box as a dangerous set piece caused havoc, only for the Wydad attacker’s flying header to go off target.

Wydad’s night though, would get a lot worse early on as Amine Atouchi was forced off with just 12 minutes played.

Coach Faouzi Benzarti would be forced to play his cards early as he brought on Belgian-born defender Naim Aarab in his place.

Meanwhile, the pace of Sundowns’ frontline was proving to be a thorn in Wydad’s plans, but despite them looking the more promising, they would find the equaliser as Ismail El Haddad found himself unmarked in the box and headed past a hapless Denis Onyango with just 20 minutes played.

The goal seemed to rattle Sundowns, and minutes later, Onyango needed to be at his best as he made a fantastic diving save to deny a curling effort by Mohamed Ounajem.

With 35 minutes on the clock, Wydad could have had a second but this time, Brahim Nakach’s effort lacked the required accuracy to trouble Onyango.

Wydad were certainly looking the better of the two teams as the half winded down, but they would be unable to cause any further damage before the half-time interval.

The second half would be a real battle of attrition as factors such as altitude began to play its part in the game. Sundowns coach Mosimane must have realised that there was a weakness in the Wydad defence as the Tshwane giants continued to play the ball over the top for Billiat and Vilakazi to run onto.

The tactic would almost pay off instantly as just after the restart, Gaston Sirino’s looping header had the Wydad keeper worried, but he would watch on as it flew just over the bar.

Sundowns looked more threatening throughout the half, and after a brilliant link-up play between Vilakazi and Themba Zwane, the latter would be unable to fire his effort on target from inside the box.  

It was all Sundowns in attack as the game reached the hour-mark, and Hlompho Kekana was beginning to become more influential on the game, and the captain was looking deadly as his shot was superbly blocked on the edge of the box.  

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With time running out, the clash became a stop-start affair with Wydad attempting to soak up every minute as fatigue began to set in.

When Sundowns did manage to keep the ball for an extended period of time, it was wave after wave of Sundowns attack.

Wydad held firm but Sundowns were guilty of not testing the away keeper enough as the final whistle blew ensuring that they started off their campaign with a share of the spoils.

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